Going underground

It’s Deleuze week here among the deckchairs, a problem I’m keen to sheet home to Michael Feldstein. I’m not normally a Deleuze reader—even in the brief moments of my life when I’m not thinking about what’s wrong with the OpenClass marketing strategy (see below)*—but the coincidences are piling up, including that a colleague has just pointed me to the 1990 conversation between Deleuze and Antonio Negri, on “Control and Becoming“. And in a genuinely rhizomatic sort of way, I’ve been…

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The mosquito and the raindrop

From Lindsay Tanner’s “adapt to eLearning or die” speech to Australian higher education, to Adrian Sannier’s soothing evolutionary metaphors to spin Pearson’s arrival as a predator in the LMS ecosystem, all sorts of people are drawing on the history of everything-until-now to figure out where we might be going with edtech. It’s evolutionary thinking, baby. I’m now trying to figure out how to make sense of the latest move that joins up Pearson and Knewton to deliver content, platform and analytics….

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Countable things

Across so many realms of their operations, universities really like countable things.  We like metrics and tables and charts and the sparkling virtuosity of key performance indicators marching across a spreadsheet. We like performance to be scored, we like impact factors and citation indices, and we really love rank. We even tabulate the emotional intangibles of workplace culture like “satisfaction”. Among other things, this leads to the slightly odd moment when university staff are surveyed to find out how they…

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Trust wipeout

From Cap and Gown yesterday, this question: Can someone in universities please start thinking about cultures of trust and what creates them?? The urgency of the double question mark won’t seem out of place to anyone working in universities at the moment. Across the academic-professional staff divide, or in the ways that academics and students talk about each other, or in the tense and often bitter exchanges between management and unions, there’s a tone that’s ungenerous at best, and openly suspicious…

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Edtech and the evolutionary arms race

In 1944, in response to a question about whether there could be a “purely American art”, Jackson Pollock said this: The idea of an isolated American painting, so popular in this country during the thirties, seems absurd to me just as the idea of creating a purely American mathematics or physics would seem absurd …  the basic problems of contemporary painting are independent of any country. It’s a famous move in the history of exnomination that plays differently, I think,…

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Analyse this

Like Jonathan Rees, I’m really trying not to arc up in response to each inflated claim about technology’s power to save education from its own dismal, maladjusted, unimaginative future. Maybe it’s the EDUCAUSE effect, but it’s a whole keg party of edtech Kool Aid out there at the moment, and I’m feeling like someone’s disapproving mother. The problem is the tsunami of corporate PR from edtech large and small that goes well beyond spruiking individual products, and extends to a generalised Mexican…

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Open is as open does

Openness: everyone’s at it.  All of a sudden higher education is a hive of managed promiscuity, and it’s only a matter of time before we’re all throwing our keys into the fruitbowl. First Pearson announce (and, at last, demonstrate) their new “free, open, easy, amazing” OpenClass. Now Blackboard have announced a more open approach to content developed by academics and hosted on Blackboard sites.  As Audrey Watters points out quietly, the game-changing technology here is … a ‘share’ button.  What…

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One professor at a time

I’m still worried about the missed potential for edtech entrepreneurs large and small to engage in more substantial dialogue with educators at an earlier stage in their thinking.  At the moment, the pattern of bringing a mostly non-negotiable product to the RFP table involves both parties in an awkward clash of expectations that Joshua Kim has aptly described as a “bake-off”, and that certainly has reminded me of MasterChef more than once. So the award for persistence in communicating with…

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Waiting for disruption

This week’s excitement has been the announcement by Pearson of their shakeup of the LMS experience.  On the OpenClass website, where we’re told in very big letters that this is all Open, Free, Easy and Amazing, the promotional video starts with Adrian Sannier, Senior VP, making the big claim that the LMS “as you know it” is dead. Sannier brings serious university research and administrative experience to Pearson’s push into the edtech market, and I’m confident that he knows what…

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To market, to market

And then there are situations from which even the most sympathetic creative cross-sectoral partnerships with ed tech, big and small, can’t save us. University marketing, for example. Visual branding is a struggle between the obvious and the obscure, and this gets very tricky when universities are trying to decide how to represent themselves. Images of location and local environment score well, as do shots of students talking to each other animatedly, preferably in carefully selected groups that hint at a…

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